Snow on Beinn Ratha
The wisdom of the geese has proved right. Their early leaving betokened a longer, harder winter than usual. In this brief introduction to winter, I have already experienced more snow and frost here than in three plus years previously. Winter came early and, unlike the geese, I have lingered a bit longer than usual. The first year, my husband whisked me off to New Zealand and Australia. I got a double dose of summer that year. Next year I was off to the US before Christmas and there had been no sign of snow or frost here. Beinn Ratha did not have even a light dusting of snow. Last year we were in Indiana for a special Thanksgiving where we had plenty of snow and cold. We got back to Caithness in time for a flurry of snow and the only frost all season, but the stark white on the grass was gone by midday.
We have had one snow day already and yesterday as I walked to the dairy maid's cottage to feed the cats, each blade of grass was wrapped in a shroud of ice. The stone path was too slippery to navigate, so I walked as gingerly as I could on the frozen spikes of grass. The sun, although late and lazy this time of year, shone a soft golden light on the grass and melted the worst of the frost. Before the melting was complete, however, the sun had retreated and the temperatures had plummeted again. We had below zero weather here.
Although this zero is a Celsius zero, rather than his fiercer North American cousin, Fahrenheit zero, below zero weather is a formidable opponent on either continent. If the wind off the North Sea gets in a huff and drives snow or sleet in front of it, then the colder temperatures of the North American wind chill are moot. Either is too cold for human comfort.
This winter, however, offers a new season of beauty to add to my affectionate palette. Although I am most fond of the colours of Autumn on the hills or the jester yellow of whins in full bloom in summer, the sight of Beinn Ratha this morning in a full mantle of snow gave him a dignity and softened pastel colours that held me admiring him. I had never seen Beinn Ratha with more than a dusting of snow suggesting a bald pate or a tonsure. This snow extends to his shoulders and spreads along the other, anonymous hills by his side. As I wrote that line, I felt obliged to name them. My husband provided a local map --a trusty Ordinance Survey of Thurso and Dunbeath. Beinn Ruadh, I think ruadh means red, is the trusted right hand mountain of Beinn Ratha, although it is on his left. The others are lesser players, Cnoc na Tobaireach, Cnoc nan Airigh. Cnoc, meaning a knob or a hill, denotes the nobles, courtiers paying homage to Beinn Ratha in his court.